HL Deb 26 July 1984 vol 455 cc393-4
Lord Sandys

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Chelwood, and with his permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will summarise the recommendations of the task force set up by the NCB to examine ways of bringing new business and new employment to the coalfields; approximately how many miners over what period of time should benefit from the efforts of NCB Enterprises Ltd.; and how and on what scale it will be funded over the next five years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy (The Earl of Avon)

My Lords, the task force set up by the National Coal Board, to which my noble friend refers, is expected to make its report to the board in early August. I shall ensure that my noble friend is informed of developments.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Can he inform your Lordships whether there has been any new development since 25th June last, when my noble friend last inquired into this subject?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, in the nine-point programme put forward by the National Coal Board, the board stated that it would bring into full operation its new enterprise company which will provide mining communities with advisory services, accommodation facilities, managerial advice and, if necessary, launch aid to assist new small businesses and enterprises in those mining communities where a new diversity of jobs is required.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, is the Minister aware that this would appear to many people to be one of the most important developments which have taken place? Can he say on behalf of the Government what help they are giving? Is the finance to come exclusively out of sums already voted to the National Coal Board, or are they giving special aid to this very important project?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord's support for this scheme. As yet the Government have not been approached on the matter of financial aid, and I shall let the noble Lord know.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether it is not the case that in many mining villages where redundancies have been accepted voluntarily there should be considerable capital sums available from the redundancy benefits to enable new businesses to be started up?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, indeed that could be the case, and the Government also have training opportunities schemes, but this will be in addition to those.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, can we be assured that the National Coal Board itself will keep this scheme very much under its own control? May I also ask the noble Earl whether the National Coal Board will encourage enterprises which will make many of the goods which the National Coal Board itself uses? Would that not be a good use of ex-miners' expertise?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I take note of what the noble Lord says, and I will encourage the National Coal Board to keep this well under its own umbrella.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that there is a real need for this kind of scheme in respect of other closures as well as coal mines? Is he aware, for example, that in the small town of Shildon in County Durham there is now nearly 50 per cent. male unemployment? Is there not a need for some kind of a scheme of this sort to deal with that kind of redundancy?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, as the noble Lord is aware, there are other schemes. As I mentioned earlier, there is the Government's training opportunities scheme run by the Manpower Services Commission. I cannot give him a specific answer to his question.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether the Government would be prepared to consider that even stronger links should be forged between NCB Enterprises Ltd. and the National Coal Board staff college?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I will indeed bring that suggestion to the attention of the coal board.

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