§ Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
On a point of order. Madam Speaker. Have you received today any request by the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement on the way in which British Coal is handling the redundancies arising out of the closure of pits last week, particularly the way in which it is handling the cases of men who are on the brink of qualifying for early retirement?
There are men among those who are redundant who, having working for 35 years or more—all their working lives—are in some cases one, two or three weeks away from qualifying, at the age of 55, for early retirement, and British Coal is not allowing them to work out those few days in order to qualify. That is in marked contrast to the very constructive way in which British Steel at Shelton Bar and elsewhere in the 1970s tried to co-operate with the men, and allowed them to work out their time. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade has asked you for permission to make a statement to the House on this important matter.
§ Madam Speaker
I responded to the hon. Gentleman yesterday. A Minister does not seek my permission to make a statement, and I must make that constantly clear to the House. However. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that no Minister has told me today that he is seeking to make a statement.
§ Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
Further to that point, Madam Speaker. May I bear out what my hon. Friend has just said and tell the House that, from Stoke-on-Trent, we have written to the President of the Board of Trade and asked him to take a personal interest in the way in which British Coal is not operating a proper industrial relations policy. Can you advise me how it is possible to bring this matter to his attention when we receive no replies to the letters that we have sent?
§ Madam Speaker
From what the hon. Lady has told me, representations appear to have been made already direct to the President of the Board of Trade. It is not a point of order for the Speaker of the House.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Do you not think that it is a very odd state of affairs that the House of Commons is supposed to reflect the issues that occur in Britain day by day, yet we have a President of the Board of Trade who spends more time consulting about Asil Nadir and how to get him off the hook and does not care tuppence about closing pits and the consequences for the thousands of miners who are thrown out of work? Why is he not brought to the Dispatch Box?
§ Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. If the President of the Board of Trade has not indicated to you that he is coming along to make a statement, has he apologised for his gross incompetence?