HC Deb 23 November 1987 vol 123 cc9-10
10. Mr. Allen

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what discussions he had with the chairman of British Coal at its meeting about further proposed pit closures in Nottinghamshire over the next two years; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Parkinson

The closure of individual collieries is a matter for the British Coal Corporation. The chairman does, of course, keep me closely informed of his decisions.

Mr. Allen

Is the Secretary of State aware that Nottingham is a city built on pits, but that there are no pits in my constituency or in the city as a whole? Miners from Nottingham now have to travel to Nottinghamshire. Will the right hon. Gentleman reassure them that there will be no further pit closures in Linby, Clipstone or any of the other pits in the shire? These closures are a social consequence of the Government's policies, not something that can be referred to the chairman of British Coal.

Mr. Parkinson

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but I cannot give him that assurance. As he knows, Linby is under review at the moment. The hon. Gentleman talks as though only Conservative Governments have presided over pit closures, whereas since 1964 70 per cent, of all pit closures have taken place under Labour Governments and 30 per cent, under Conservative Governments. The Labour Government have a much better record as pit closers than we have.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

There is no one who underestimates the social consequences of pit closures, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the coalfields of Nottinghamshire and north-east Leicestershire are some of the finest and most profitable in the country and that what happens there in terms of coal and jobs is for the future and not that with which the hon. Members for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) dealt, which relates to the past?

Mr. Parkinson

My hon. Friend is right. The Government have a strong commitment to a British coal industry. We are proving that commitment by putting up taxpayers' money in large quantities to produce a modern, efficient British coal industry. I see no reason why, if men and management work together and make the best of the new investment, British Coal should not have a bright future.

Mr. Allen McKay

The Secretary of State talks about an efficient, modern and viable coal industry, but can he say how many pits and how many men?

Mr. Parkinson

No, because I do not run British Coal. I make sure that it has good management and that that management has the financial backing that it needs. It gets that backing from the Government.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to review the fact that in Gedling, a neighbouring colliery to Linby, there has been a productivity increase in the past year of nearly 30 per cent.? That is the way to preserve the future of the industry. It is not a matter of keeping open uneconomic or exhausted pits.

Mr. Parkinson

I thank my hon. Friend. The improvement in the performance of the British coal industry has been extremely impressive. That is a result of men and management working together. If that can be extended and modern working practices can be brought in, the industry has a very bright future.