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Pit Closures

Volume 649: debated on Monday 20 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Power to what extent the Plan for Coal, visualising more than 200 pit closures in the next five years, will affect production and reduce manpower; in particular, what estimate has been made by his Department of the resulting unemployment, with a view to informing the Board of Trade; and if he will make a statement.

The Revised Plan for Coal envisaged a higher level of output and manpower in 1965, than at present. The Board is able to absorb elsewhere most of the men from the closed pits. Because of this and the close liaison between the Government Departments concerned, the closures do not, and should not in future, give rise to widespread unemployment.

"Should not"—does that not imply that the Government have no plan and that it is just a "wait and see" attitude which they are adopting? Secondly, bearing in mind that some of the areas will suffer unemployment and all the social consequences that flow from it, is it not about time the Minister tried to create a fresh image in the minds of the miners instead of the existing one—that of an octopus extending its tentacles throughout the coalfields and squeezing them to death?

The image that exists in the minds of miners whose pits may or may not be closed is that very few miners who have been displaced by closures have remained unemployed.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that every pit closed means so many more jobs disappearing—in Scotland, not just out of the area but out of the country—and that it means that job opportunities for younger people are disappearing? What are the Board of Trade and the Government doing to help?

I agree with the hon. Lady that the closing of pits means a reduction in jobs, but they may be replaced in other ways. That is what the Board of Trade is trying to do. I suggest that the hon. Lady puts Questions to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade about the activities of that Department, which, in my opinion, have been extremely successful.