§ 5.4 pm
§ Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the threat to employment in the coal industry.The matter is specific and important because it relates to secret but specific proposals for the closure of no fewer than 46 collieries. At the taxpayers' expense, the Secretary of State for Energy asked Rothschilds to advise him how many collieries could be sold as going concerns and how many should be closed. Rothschilds' privatisation unit has now given him a list of just 14 collieries which would survive the privatisation process. The unit is headed by the Tory parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Highgate whose common sense and objectivity are demonstrated by the fact that he is the self-confessed inventor of the poll tax and author of a book entitled "How to privatise the world". The future of the coal industry is too important to be left to secret reports and secret talks between Tory Ministers and Tory merchant bankers. This House and the British people are entitled to know what is going on.
If implemented, these plans would lead to the closure of 46 collieries, the loss of 40,000 jobs and the devastation of coalfield communities. Their effects would not stop there: they would mean that Britain would have to import more than 50 million tonnes of coal a year, costing the balance of trade as much as £2 billion a year. It is right that Tory Ministers should come to this House and come clean on their plans. They should also explain why they have abandoned the pledges made to the miners during and after the strike in 1984–85 by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for Wales. No wonder no one believes their promises about the national health service.
The matter is urgent because these plans have already cast a cloud over the lives of more than 50,000 miners and their families, and the communities in which they live and want to work. They are entitled to know what the Government are up to and they should not be kept in the dark for the convenience of Tory Members representing seats in the coalfields or Tory-run companies which see the chance of a quick profit from coal privatisation.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the threat to employment in the coal industry.As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 20 I have to announce my decisions without giving my reasons. I have listened with care to what the hon. Member said. As he is aware, I have to decide whether his application comes within the Standing Order and, if so, whether such a debate should be given priority over the business set down for today or tomorrow. In this case, I regret that the matter he has raised does not, and I cannot submit his application to the House.