HC Deb 27 April 1993 vol 223 cc840-1
10. Mr. Churchill

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is her estimate of job losses saved in consequence of the announcement of 25 March of the reprieve of 12 coal mines in respect of jobs (a) in the pits and (b) in related industry.

Mr. McLoughlin

The number of jobs saved in the pits and related industries will depend on how much coal British Coal can sell and how successful it is at reducing costs and improving productivity.

Mr. Churchill

While I welcome the reprieve of the 12 pits and the saving for the time being of 10,000 jobs, may I ask my hon. Friend to confirm that that will represent a saving of £400 million—one third of the £1.2 billion pledged in redundancy pay by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in his statement on 13 October last year? Does my hon. Friend agree that that figure equates almost exactly to the figure of £300 million to £400 million in subsidy pledged by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade? Therefore, there will be no additional cost to the taxpayer.

Mr. McLoughlin

My hon. Friend adequately explains the equations that result from the White Paper recently published by the Government and endorsed by the House. There are a number of related issues; we obviously need to discover the outcome, the growth in demand for coal and how that will help to protect jobs in British Coal.

Mr. Enright

Does the Minister agree that British Coal Enterprise has so far totally failed to replace the jobs that have already been lost? Will he undertake positively to examine what British Coal Enterprise is doing, evaluate the information and see how many jobs are lost after six months and how many after one year? British Coal Enterprise creates false jobs and false hopes.

Mr. McLoughlin

I regret the false and negative way in which the hon. Gentleman approaches the issue. All our efforts to help specific areas fail to find favour with the Opposition, which is a great shame.

Mr. Dickens

Does my hon. Friend accept that despite the cuts in British Coal brought about by falling orders for British coal, the coal mining industry in this country remains one of the largest in the world, a fact which should not be forgotten?

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. It is equally important to remember the great way in which British Coal has improved its productivity in the last few years, which will ensure that it sells more coal.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell

Is the Minister aware that it is a disgrace that miners' pension money should go towards policies that will result in the loss of jobs in the industry, not only in the north-east of England but throughout the country? When will he get off his backside and get something done to create work in those areas?

Mr. McLoughlin

When it comes to getting off one's backside, I wonder what the hon. Gentleman was doing between 1964 and 1970, when 277 coal mines closed in Britain.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important to consider employment in all the energy-intensive industries and in the oil and gas industries? Does he further agree that all such employment would have been hit had we listened to the Labour party and done nothing about the coal industry?

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making those points, which rightly sum up some of the questions that must be addressed by the President of the Board of Trade.