HC Deb 30 June 1986 vol 100 cc686-7
5. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he next expects to meet the chairman of the National Coal Board to discuss future employment prospects in the coal industry in south Wales.

11. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he expects to meet the chairman of the National Coal Board to discuss future employment prospects in the coal industry in south Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I met the chairman designate of British Coal last week and had a useful discussion covering a wide range of issues affecting the south Wales coalfield.

Mr. Jones

A new deal between the CEGB and British Coal foreshadows the loss of another 1,500 jobs in the south Wales coalfield. Does the Secretary of State understand that the south Wales work force, between March 1983 and March 1987, will be halved, even though in the past year productivity has risen by 61 per cent.? When will the Government sanction the new Margam mine in west Glamorgan? We demand that this is clone urgently, given the indications of new job losses. Finally, when will the budget of NCB (Enterprise) Ltd be expanded, in the certain knowledge that the new job losses will wipe out any of the gains so far made by NCB (Enterprise) Ltd.?

Mr. Edwards

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it was right for the National Coal Board and the CEGB to do a deal to enable lower energy costs to be passed on to industry generally. That will undoubtedly increase pressure on the coal industry to increase productivity levels even further than it has so far, and I am glad to say that productivity levels are rising fast in the south Wales coalfield.

We discussed Margam. It is a fact that the board is currently reconsidering the Margam issue. No formal propositions have been put to the Government, but we will consider such propositions if and when they come.

As for the financing of NCB (Enterprise) Ltd., the hon. Gentleman will know that £20 million is currently available. We have made it clear that that important organisation will receive the finance that it requires to do the job that it has undertaken.

Mr. Powell

Is the Secretary of State aware that today the last pit in the Rhondda has been closed, that at Ogmore over the past few months every colliery has been closed—five collieries and 5.000 men put out of work—that 27 pits have been closed and 43,000 jobs lost in the mining industry since the end of the miners' strike, and that 30,000 tonnes of coal are imported every month from South Africa? Is the right hon. Gentleman one of the 50 Tory Members who have direct or indirect financial links with the South African apartheid regime? Perhaps he will ask his hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) whether he has an interest directly in that regime.

Mr. Raffan

I certainly have not.

Mr. Edwards

The fact that coal mining has ceased in the Rhondda emphasises the historic nature of the process that has taken place under successive Governments over a long time. I raised with the chairman designate the question of South African coal which is entering Europe, and in some quantities indirectly into this country, but he told me that it has practically no effect on the south Wales industry, because it is not the kind of coal that is generally produced in south Wales.

Mr. Raffan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Let us have a question instead.

Mr. Raffan

I assure my right hon. Friend that I have some sympathy for the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) on that point. I might add that I have no financial interests in South Africa whatsoever. Indeed, I am a former member of the executive of the anti-apartheid movement, which may be of interest to the hon. Gentleman. I am completely opposed to the present South African Government. We should look after the interests of our own coal mines first. The Government should perhaps consider taking action against imports of South African coal into this country, as well as other sanctions against the South African Government. I hope that the hon. Member for Ogmore will withdraw the smear that he made against me personally and show some courtesy to this House by doing so at the end of Question Time.

Mr. Edwards

I do not intend to get involved in the smearing that may be going on. The question of coal imports was one of the issues discussed at the recent meeting of the European Community Ministers. The imports that affect the south Wales industry are largely north American imports rather than South African imports.