HC Deb 26 June 1989 vol 155 cc686-8
8. Mr. Haynes

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he last met the chairman of British Coal; and what matters were discussed.

13. Mr. Hood

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he next expects to meet the chairman of British Coal; and what matters he expects to discuss.

Mr. Parkinson

I meet the chairman of British Coal regularly to discuss all aspects of the coal industry.

Mr. Haynes

It is time that the Secretary of State discussed with the chairman of British Coal the amount of coal which the Central Electricity Generating Board is to take on. I have serious reason to believe that the CEGB and British Coal have done a dirty deal which will affect the Nottinghamshire miners whom the Secretary of State defends in this Chamber. The take has been reduced from 75 million tonnes to 60 million tonnes. What will the Secretary of State say at the Dispatch Box on behalf of the Nottinghamshire miners now?

Mr. Parkinson

If I catch your eye later today, Mr. Speaker, I will tell the House that that allegation is complete and utter rubbish. British Coal and the two generators are in the process of negotiation about the quantity of coal and the term for which they will take it. We have made the Government's position absolutely clear. We believe that we have put the industry in a strong position to get the lion's share of that business. That is what we would like to happen.

Mr. Hood

When the Secretary of State next meets the chairman of British Coal, will he ask him how much it cost to pay off the private coal companies in Bilston Glen as a result of the closure of that colliery? How much pay-off to the private contractors was made in compensation?

Mr. Parkinson

I will ask the chairman of British Coal that when I next meet him. However, I volunteer some information to the hon. Gentleman in the hope that it will help him. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, Bilston Glen lost £20 million in the last financial year in addition to £50 million of accumulated losses that it had made before then. That is why the colliery had to close.

Mr. Andy Stewart

When my right hon. Friend next meets the chairman of British Coal, will he congratulate him and his working miners on achieving increased profits of £500 million this year? Fifty per cent. of deep-mined coal comes from Nottinghamshire, which is something of which the people there are very proud.

Mr. Parkinson

I shall certainly do as my hon. Friend asks, and I will remind the chairman that Nottinghamshire miners find the attitude of the Labour party towards them totally hypocritical. That party gave those miners no support when they needed it but is trying to exploit them now.

Mr. Ashby

I hope that my right hon. Friend will discuss with the chairman of British Coal a problem affecting my constituency concerning jobs at the new mine at Asfordby near Rutland. Undertakings were given that Leicestershire miners would be offered jobs there. My right hon. Friend will know that a number of Leicestershire mines will shortly close, and jobs at Asfordby are very necessary for those affected. Will my right hon. Friend remind the chairman of undertakings that jobs at Asfordby would be made available to Leicestershire miners?

Mr. Parkinson

I shall do as my hon. Friend asks, but I point out that although more than 100,000 miners have left the industry since the end of the strike, not one was refused a job if he wanted to stay in the industry. Every one who left did so voluntarily, with a substantial redundancy payment.

Mr. Hardy

Does the Secretary of State accept that the jobs of many miners in Leicestershire and elsewhere are at stake as a consequence of the short-sighted consideration that sees the importing of South African and other coal as being economical? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that many of his right hon. and hon. Friends are more interested in the future of the South African coal mining industry than in our own?

Mr. Parkinson

The hon. Gentleman delivers a good old emotive sentence but one which has no basis in fact, as he knows. Imports represent about 10 per cent. of our total coal burn, and some of those imports are very necessary because we do not produce all the qualities of coal that we need. Of that 10 per cent., less than 2 per cent. is South African. There is no sign that there will be substantial imports from South Africa.